The Chinese Government is Paying Almost $1000 for a 128MB Memory Stick

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See the second-to-last row on the bottom, price is on the far right.

So, it turns out the Chinese government doesn’t know crap about computers. Or maybe they don’t care about money? Perhaps there’s some kind of corruption going on. Whatever the reason, Southern Metropolis Daily is reporting today on an invoice from the government-run Chinese Academy of Science that lists a 128 MB memory stick (for a printer, apparently) as costing 6,247 RMB ($979). Uh, what?

Of course, the same exact product costs about 300 RMB ($46) on the open market, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, and we’re betting you could find it for even cheaper than that. Heck, for $979 you might as well buy the latest iPod and use that for data storage! That might sound hyperbolic, but actually the Jianyang county archiving department was found to be using iPod Touch 4s as their “portable hard drives” some time ago.

Anyway, back to the memory sticks; apparently, a vendor told reporters it was possible to find ones that cost that much, as buying an “original” HP stick that has since been verified and tested by HP technicians apparently costs about 6,000 RMB. But when a reporter spoke with HP, they said that these “original” memory sticks went for around 600 RMB, not 6,000, and that the 600 RMB sticks were their most expensive product in that category.

A worker at the Chinese Academy of Science that reporters spoke to confirmed that they indeed purchased and used that kind of memory stick, but would neither confirm nor deny that the invoice posted online was authentic. The worker did say that their purchases were all legal, and that anyone with doubts about the prices could check a website where central-government-approved purchase prices are apparently posted. But when reporters attempted to check the site, they discovered it was not accessible to the general public and required “authentication of government ID” to log in.

Whatever’s going on here, it’s hard to imagine that the extra $850-or-so the government is dishing out isn’t ending up in someone’s pocket, so take your pick: is it corruption or incompetence? Either way, it’s pretty damn embarrassing.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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